Global environmental footprints

A guide to estimating, interpreting and using consumption-based accounts of resource use and environmental impacts

Emissions and resources are typically allocated to national territories. There has been increased interest in allocating environmental flows to the final consumption of goods and services. The resulting "environment footprints" are particularly relevant for global environmental problems in a globalised world. Developed countries generally have larger environmental footprints than their national territorial flows, and the gap has tended to increase over the last two decades. Consequently, some have argued that environmental policies should address the environmental footprint. Despite the potential policy relevance, there has been relatively little research on policy applications. While environmental footprints have many advantages, policy applications are limited by estimation and interpretation uncertainty, and by the lack of a clear policy motivation.